Sacramento Historic City Cemetery established in mid-19th century

The Sacramento Historic City Cemetery is located at 1000 Broadway. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The Sacramento Historic City Cemetery is located at 1000 Broadway. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part seven in a series regarding Sacramento area cemeteries.

Certainly one of the Land Park area’s most notable landmarks is the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery at 1000 Broadway, between Riverside Boulevard and Muir Way.
This cemetery has the notoriety of being Sacramento’s oldest existing cemetery, as it dates back to the mid-19th century.
The initial acreage for the cemetery was donated on Nov. 28, 1849 by Capt. John Augustus Sutter, who a decade earlier established one of the area’s most historically important sites, Sutter’s Fort, and Henry A. Schoolcraft, who came to California in 1847 and became the first alcalde of Sacramento in the spring of 1849.
On Dec. 3, 1849, the city passed an ordinance establishing a public cemetery and regulating interments.
The ordinance included the following words: “Be it ordained by the president and council of Sacramento City, that from and after the passage of this ordinance, the (10-acre) square donated to the city by John A. Sutter and H.A. Schoolcraft, south of Y Street (now Broadway), between 9th and 11th streets, shall be the public grave yard (sic), where the bodies of deceased persons shall be buried.”
The cemetery was laid out sometime in 1850.
A report regarding the city’s common council meeting of Nov. 26, 1850, notes: “The committee on the subject (of the city cemetery) recommended that the sexton in charge of the burial ground be requested to make out a plat defining the places where persons have been buried.”
Four days later, the Sacramento Transcript reported that common councilmember Dr. J.M. Mackenzie had commenced making a list of those who had been interred at the city cemetery.
By 1858, the cemetery included about 3,000 graves, 300 trees, a well and irrigation pipe.
Although the cemetery’s earliest known burial was that of a Capt. James T. Homans of the U.S. Navy in 1849, the grave of Franklin B. Davis has a more historical background, considering that his original burial occurred three years earlier.
The remains of Davis were relocated to today’s Sacramento Historic City Cemetery, either from Buckeye Knoll – an earlier established burial place that was located on the city block bounded by 9th, 10th, V and W streets – or from another early Sacramento burial site.
Among the earlier residents to be buried at the cemetery was James H. Crocker, who was the son of Capt. Rowland R. Crocker, who was known as having crossed the Atlantic Ocean more times than any then-living shipmaster.
James H. Crocker, a New Bedford, Mass. native who worked at Capt. Rowland Gelston’s Sacramento store, died from dysentery at the age of 43 on April 1, 1850.
According to James H. Crocker’s obituary in the April 10, 1850 edition of the Transcript, his coffin, which was covered with an American flag, was carried to his grave in a long procession, which was accompanied by music played by a band.
A few of the most notable people buried at the cemetery are: Sacramento’s founder John Augustus Sutter, Jr. (1826-1897); lawyer and famous art collector, E.B. Crocker (1818-1875); storekeeper and railroad mogul, Mark Hopkins (1813-1878); and several California governors and early Sacramento mayors.

The cemetery’s 120-year-old mortuary chapel houses the cemetery’s official records. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The cemetery’s 120-year-old mortuary chapel houses the cemetery’s official records. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Among the former mayors who were interred at the cemetery was Hardin Bigelow, Sacramento’s first mayor to be elected under a state charter.
Bigelow, who was shot in Sacramento’s tragic squatter riots in August 1850, passed away at the age of 41 on Nov. 27, 1850.
Also interred at the city cemetery was Col. William Stephen Hamilton (1797-1850), the second youngest son of Alexander Hamilton, the first treasurer of the United States.
Although William has been speculated to have died of cholera during the city’s nearly three-week cholera epidemic in 1850, the Transcript, on Oct. 8, 1850, recognized his death as occurring the previous day, or about two weeks prior to when cholera was recorded to have arrived in Sacramento.
According to the 1880 book, “History of Sacramento County, California,” cholera was brought to Sacramento from San Francisco on Oct. 20, 1850.
A trivia regarding William was that he was buried at two previous locations before being interred at his present burial site near the then-future location of the mortuary chapel on May 29, 1889.
Other notable persons who were interred at the city cemetery include former state Senator William Johnson and Henry Elliot, builder of the first Weinstock, Lubin & Co. store at 400-412 K St.
Visitors of the cemetery can also tour special sections such as the Exempt Firemen’s plot (1858), the Pioneer Society plot (1862) and several war veterans memorials, including the Spanish-American War Memorial (1898).
Another special monument at the cemetery was established in memory of about 1,000 people who died during the city’s aforementioned cholera epidemic of 1850.
At the time of the epidemic, no one knew what caused cholera or how one became infected with it.
Thousands fled from the city in panic, and 17 local physicians died.
Historical cemetery records indicate that 16 of these 17 physicians are buried at the cemetery, although their exact locations are unknown.
The cemetery also consists of the Sacramento Historic Rose Garden, which is located on a portion of the cemetery’s land that was donated by John Augustus Sutter, Sr. and Henry A. Schoolcraft.
In the middle of the cemetery sits the aforementioned mortuary chapel, which was constructed 120 years ago and is now used as a museum and archives library.
The building, which originally served as a holding vault, where remains were kept until proper burials could be arranged, presently serves as a different and more permanent style of holding vault, as it houses the official records of the cemetery.
In contrast to its beginnings on a 10-acre parcel, the cemetery consists of 31.8 acres and about 30,000 burials.
However, the cemetery, which had gradually expanded with the growth of the city, actually reached a size of nearly 60 acres in 1880, with a property donation by one of the city’s all-time greatest philanthropists, Margaret Crocker, who was the widow of E.B. Crocker.
That donation was described in the July 1, 1880 edition of The Sacramento Union, as follows: “Margaret E. Crocker to Sacramento City – Addition to city cemetery, June 25th, 2.22 chains wide by 10.51 chains long, fronting Y Street, and lying on west side of city cemetery.”
The Margaret Crocker addition, which remains a part of the cemetery, was laid with lots blocks, and avenues named Azalea, Eglantine, Linden, Maple, Mulberry and Myrtle.
As the years unceasingly pass by, the value of the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery as a historic treasure continues to increase.
The cemetery’s present winter hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
For additional information about this cemetery, call 448-0811.

Remembering Sacramento entrepreneur Charles F. Silva

As the years pass by in the city of Sacramento, the histories of certain notable residents from various communities and neighborhoods begin to fade. And among such people of days gone by is Charles F. Silva.
Charles F. Silva is shown with his first wife, Theresa (Kennedy) Silva, on their wedding day, Aug. 15, 1899. / Photo courtesy of PHCS
Charles F. Silva is shown with his first wife, Theresa (Kennedy) Silva, on their wedding day, Aug. 15, 1899. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

Although many people today are not familiar with Charles and his connection to part of the Land Park community, Charles F. Silva is undoubtedly a name that should be well preserved.

Born in the Azores

Born on Dec. 14, 1867 in Faial in the Azores Islands of Portugal, Charles arrived in Boston at the age of 11 in 1878 and then proceeded to the Sutterville area in today’s South Land Park area of Sacramento.

With only $2.50 in his pocket, Charles used $1 of his money to reach the town of Vernon in Sutter County, where he became employed as a milker on a dairy ranch for 50 cents per day.

Teen cheese entrepreneur

Using earnings from this job, Charles, when he was 13, paid a cheese maker $50 to teach him how to make cheese, after which he went into business for himself.

Charles eventually rented a ranch in Yolo County, bought cows and established a dairy and cheese plant.

Charles’ next venture was his purchase of the 160-acre Ramsey Ranch, which was located six miles above Vernon on the Feather River. He also rented the Hoover Ranch and the Clark and Cave ranches near the Sacramento River.

While conducting business along the Sacramento River, Charles entered the boating business, as he bought a gasoline-powered boat and a barge.

Meanwhile, Charles purchased the Point Ranch, where he cut wood, which he transported down the river to Sacramento.

In 1900, Charles returned to the capital city, as he purchased and resided at the Meadows place on Front Street, between O and P streets. It was there that he also established a wood, hay and grain business.

Shipping businesses

In addition to this business, Charles purchased the steamers “Neponset” and “Neptune,” the trading boats “Jersey” and “Inder” and the barges, “Columbia,” “Sutter” and “Vernon.”

In becoming engaged in the transportation business, Charles formed a partnership with a Capt. Jones. This partnership continued for many years and their route included towns on the Sacramento River, between Sacramento and Butte City.


During this time, Charles was also involved in the cattle and sheep business.

Eventually, Charles sold his interests in the boats to devote his full attention to his livestock business.

Charles experienced much success in this endeavor, as he enlarged his interests on an annual basis and also established retail businesses – four local meat markets and a large wholesale business in Sacramento.

Additionally, Charles bred Hereford stock and was renowned throughout the state as a breeder of these fine cattle.

So large was Charles’ livestock business operation that he became known as the largest individual cattle dealer in California, shipping thousands of head of cattle from Mexico, in addition to his large shipments from throughout the state.

Charles’ wealth was great, as he purchased various Northern California ranches and later sold the ranches for twice the amount that he had paid for them.

Land dealer

Along with his real estate transactions, Charles was actively associated with various reclamation projects and served as the organizer and director of the Sutter Basin Co. and the Natomas Land Co.


Following his time with his previous cattle business endeavors, Charles invested in many Sacramento properties, including business blocks, warehouses and residences, and purchased a 21,000-acre cattle ranch in Modoc County.

Charles additionally accumulated other properties such as 243 acres dedicated to fruit growing in Yuba County and 670 acres on the Feather River in Butte County, with one half of this acreage being devoted to fruit.

Another major part of Charles’ life was his interest in horses and for many years he was involved in breeding standard-bred animals. 

This horseracing track in Woodland was owned by Charles F. Silva from 1916 to 1921. To the right forefront of the photograph is Silva and his record-breaking horse, Teddy Bear. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

This horseracing track in Woodland was owned by Charles F. Silva from 1916 to 1921. To the right forefront of the photograph is Silva and his record-breaking horse, Teddy Bear. / Photo courtesy of PHCS

Breeder of race horses

 Charles, who eventually had the finest standard-bred stock in the state, raised the well-known pacer, Teddy Bear, who broke a 6-year-old record at the California State Fair on Aug. 29, 1911. The horse set the mile mark of two minutes and five seconds.

With his continued interest in horses, Charles purchased a racetrack in Woodland in 1916.

It can be speculated that Charles, who continued to own the track until 1921, purchased the track in order to run Teddy Bear on his own schedule during fair weather days throughout the year.

In the early 1920s, Charles traded a 21,000-acre parcel of land in Alturas (Modoc County) for the old Weinstock-Lubin and Co. department store building at 4th and K streets. The building had been vacated and the company had reopened in its new location at 12th and K streets.

Meat marketer

Charles also owned other business operations in Sacramento, including the Fulton Meat Market at 4th and M (now Capitol Mall) streets, California Market on J Street, between 7th and 8th streets, and meat markets on 10th and M (now Capitol Mall) streets, 16th and M (now Capitol Avenue) streets and in Folsom and Knights Landing.

He also owned a slaughterhouse on Y Street (present day Broadway), between 5th and 6th streets.

Charles established a rich connection to the Land Park community with his founding of Charles Station, which later became known as South Land Park Hills.

Charles F. Silva is shown at the age of about 55, around the time he acquired the old Weinstock-Lubin and Co. department store building at 4th and K streets. / Photo courtesy

Charles F. Silva is shown at the age of about 55, around the time he acquired the old Weinstock-Lubin and Co. department store building at 4th and K streets. / Photo courtesy

Charles’ property was located off the present day Del Rio Road in the area of today’s Kennedy Lane and Pleasant Drive.

On this property, Charles owned and operated a second slaughterhouse, which had a thick concrete floor that later posed difficulties in building the foundations of some of the area’s high quality homes.

Family manDuring his life, Charles was married twice, with the first of his marriages occurring when he married Theresa Kennedy in Sacramento on Aug. 15, 1899. Together the couple had nine children.

Following Theresa’s death, Charles married Lois Blackwell and this marriage added two more children to his family.

The most prominent of Charles’ children was former Land Park area resident Ray Silva. Ray, who passed away in 1996, was a referee for the Harlem Globetrotters and the founder and operator of Kiddie Land, Land Park’s small-scale children’s amusement park, which is today known as Funderland.

Undoubtedly, Charles, who passed away on July 14, 1944, was a man who achieved many great things in his life.

And considering his many accomplishments and the fact that he once had practically pennies in his pocket and no assets to his name, Charles Silva should be remembered for many years as a self-motivated man whose drive to excel led to a life of success.